Although most people by now seem to realise the huge potential the new VR technology (in the shape of the Oculus Rift) could have for virtual worlds like Second Life, some still think that it will be a niche thing.
That only a few people will actually end up owning this gadget and that eventually it will end up in the cupboard, dusty and forgotten or only used by a few nerds.
I think that the Oculus Rift (or any other kind of virtual headset) will actually end up in almost every household.
People don’t always see that virtual reality can and will be used for much more than just playing games and having fun in virtual worlds.
I think that this technology will be used to watch movies/tv, to go shopping, for education, as social media, for exercise, to work, etc, etc.
I will try and explain why I think this.
Virtual reality & film/tv;
This video shows people enjoying short clips shot with a 360 degree camera, the camera is stationary, it does not move, the person watching moves his head to look around “inside” the film.
Walking around in something that was filmed in this way is at this moment not yet possible but I don’t doubt that this will be possible soon.
And yes, many of us would probably prefer to enjoy our movies in the old fashioned way but imagine watching the last episode of ‘Breaking Bad’ while actually being inside it, watching an exciting scene… and then suddenly realising someone is standing behind you…
It may not be your cup of tea, you may prefer to watch a movie the traditional way, but it is obvious that many people will enjoy this new possibility as well.
That makes this video so interesting, it is a big step in that direction.
Another option is to watch a movie together with friends in a virtual cinema;
I think that this is another interesting and fun way to watch a movie, it brings the magic of the cinema to your home without the noisy people, mobile phones or sticky floors.
And you can perhaps also pick a certain type of cinema, such as a lovely 1930s art deco one for that vintage movie, complete with an audience of 1930s people, smoking all trough the movie.
And of course you will be able to share the cinema with friends and family even if they live on the other side of the world.
Virtual Reality & Shopping;
I personally hate shopping and would love to avoid it completely but other people love it.
Either way, many of us already use the internet to shop and VR will make this experience more fun or less of a hassle.
For instance, imagine you need a new tv, you visit a few websites but the most they can offer you is a picture that perhaps, if you’re lucky, you can turn around a bit.
Whoohoo, I can see the backside of a tv.
In a virtual shop you can see 3d models of each television set but you will eventually also be able to get a free virtual copy that you can ‘rez’ in a virtual facsimile of your living room, make sure it fits in that corner, if you need a new table to go with it, etc, etc.
The tv will of course work!
And as always, this can be a shared experience.
You can invite your mother to come see you fit a wedding dress even though she lives far away.
It will probably never replace normal shopping, but I bet it will be the end of the regular online shopping experience.
Because those online shops are dull as dishwater.
Virtual Reality & education;
Now here is a big one, especially for me personally.
I am not a teacher but I work a lot with schools, museums and educational tv shows and as someone with a huge passion for history, sharing that interest and making people understand how amazing and interesting history is, education is hugely important to me.
But in the world of Virtual Reality this is also a big one to use as a way to promote this technology and it is quite simple to convince people about how well this technique could be used for this purpose.
For instance, sorry about using history again and blatantly promoting my own sim in the following bit, imagine a class room discussing 1920s Berlin as part of their curriculum.
Learning about the chaos of post WW1 Germany, the rise of Nazism, etc.
As the class begins, everyone puts on their VR set and soon find themselves wandering the streets of 1920s Berlin.
Perhaps they will use something like my crude creation in Second Life or a much smoother and more realistic version made especially for schools.
Teacher shows them some of the spots, their avatars in 1920s clothing makes them realise what they might have looked like had they actually lived back then, the place is filled with NPCs (non–playable characters) and feels alive, real.
But after after the lesson, after school, children will go home and do their homework also by using the VR set to go back to 1920s Berlin, take their time to visit more places, to investigate or perhaps just to have some fun as well.
One day perhaps the whole school will take place in a virtual reality, a scary idea perhaps but a huge solution to those children living far away from school.
Anyway, I think it is quite obvious that Virtual Reality can be an amazing tool for education, both in school and at home.
I couldn’t find a nice video about the future of virtual education, so I’ll share this old one of me giving a tour in 1920s Berlin;
Virtual reality & Social Media;
Many of us spend a lot of time on facebook, keeping in touch with friends, family and work colleagues.
How this will develop in the near virtual future is very hard to predict.
Will it become a quick sort of virtual world where everyone has their own “page” that they can design?
Will checking how someone is doing be like visiting their tropical island, villa or castle in the sky?
Will it be something like Second Life… will it be Second Life?
Or will it be a bunch of pictures and notifications that just float in the air while you’re busy working or playing in your virtual office?
In the novel “Ready Player One” our hero has a virtual basement where he hangs out with his friends, will social media evolve into something like that?
Will facebook of the future look and feel like a virtual neighbourhood where all your friends have a home they designed themselves, with sign floating above it when something important has happened, where their latest snapshot is projected onto the lawn and where above the roof their current status is shown?
Where you can enter their home, look at their stuff and hear their music?
I couldn’t find a video about this but I did find this interesting interview;
Inventor Of Oculus Rift: The Future Of Virtual Reality Is Social Networking
Virtual Reality & Exercise;
Exercise is big business but generally it is a rather boring activity, unless you’re able to spend a fortune to buy cool toys or travel to exciting places.
But virtual reality will make exercise a lot more fun for many people, regardless of budget.
Thanks to omnidirectional treadmills you will be able to walk and run in a virtual reality, you can choose to get your exercise just walking around some virtual world, running for your life in a computer game but you can also burn calories in surroundings specially created for this purpose.
After all, where would you rather do your morning jogging?
In the street outside your home that you see every single day already or some exotic beach, stunning dessert, the rainforest, across the moon or perhaps in a world you created yourself?
Virtual reality will make this possible and this will be interesting for people who might usually not be interested in gaming, virtual reality or even computers.
For instance, I can see my mum use VR for this purpose.
This is a big market.
The Wii Fit for instance, a computer “game” that allows people to do real exercise, has sold nearly 23 million copies.
This video shows some of the options, but here of course all they do is watch a screen.
Imagine doing these sports in a virtual reality.
Virtual Reality & work;
It is obvious that working from home (AKA teleworking) is going to be big in the future.
Renting expensive offices, travel costs (both in money, time and pollution), etc.
Virtual reality will make this a lot easier, you will actually be able to feel part of a team, be present at a meeting, do a presentation and even feel like you’re chatting at the watercooler, while never leaving your chair at home, or perhaps even without getting dressed…
Either way, I reckon it will beat this alternative…
I am trying to explain that Virtual Reality will not just be a niche gadget for extreme gamers with more money than wisdom.
I hope to have shown that in the very recent future Virtual Reality will be something you’ll find in almost every home, the VR set will be as common as tv sets are today.
And when everyone has access to Virtual Reality and when Linden Lab manages to keep up and make it work very very well in Second Life… our virtual world may become bigger than it has ever been.
The minute people get their hands on a VR set for the first time they will want more than the demos and games.
And then they may remember Second Life, see that advertisement, hear that story, see that youtube video and realise that it still is the biggest online virtual world there is.
And that it can be more fun to explore something you have build yourself than some place build by some game designer, some place everyone has seen a million times before.
And maybe you will realise that some of the VR experiences you’re about to pay for… can already be found in SL, for free.
In short, we’re at the dawn of a Virtual Reality renaissance and I think that this could also be Second Life’s renaissance.
There WILL be a Second Life for Second Life… as long as Linden Lab plays its cards right… and fixes its Terms Of Service!